Storm blows rivals away

Eye Of The Storm dug deep to strike gold for the first time this year in the Group Three Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown last night.

Storm blows rivals away

Winner of two of his five starts last term, the Aidan O’Brien-trained four-year-old had failed to make his mark in three outings so far this season but still carried plenty of market confidence as the 7-4 favourite in this 12-furlong event.

Joseph O’Brien had Eye Of The Storm handily placed behind Roheryn in the early stages before pushing to the front with more than half of the race still to run.

That pair still dominated proceedings turning into the straight and O’Brien pushed on, only for Roheryn to renew his challenge while Chance To Dance and Streetcar To Stars made late ground after sitting in behind earlier on. However, despite the trio’s best efforts, they could not reel in Eye Of The Storm as he held on by half a length.

O’Brien said: “I’m delighted. He only has one eye so he gets a bit intimidated sometimes. Coming out of stalls, he wasn’t sure where he was so he went a bit right, but he settled into the race when he worked out where he was. When he goes left-handed, he can’t see the rail.

“He’s in the American Leger at Arlington later this month and he’s a possibility for that. We also have Magician in the Million and Adelaide in the Secretariat.”

The O’Brien team had earlier been on the mark as Illusive scored his first victory at the third attempt in the Foxrock Maiden.

The son of Galileo, who is a full-brother to Rip Van Winkle, disputed the lead in the early stages before taking up the pace with seven furlongs still to run.

He asserted when ridden a furlong and a half from home and he kept on well in the closing stages to score by three-quarters of a length.

The winning trainer said: “It’s great that he has won and hopefully he will come forward from it. He won nicely. He quickened up well but he probably got a bit tired on the ground as he hasn’t run for a while.”

Vert De Grece is set for a step up in class as he justified 5-4 favouritism in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

Owned and trained by Joe Murphy, Verte De Grece scored by a neck from Hail The Hero on his first outing since June.

Murphy said: “Coming here I thought he would win easier. Gary (Carroll, jockey) felt there is more improvement in him. It’s so long since he has run.

“He is a nice horse and he’ll head for the Futurity now on the 24th. He’ll have no problem in getting a mile. I wouldn’t have minded another furlong the way things went today.”

Tom McCourt could also raise Local Flier’s sights after she landed the Johnny Marr Handicap by a cosy four and a quarter lengths in a first-time visor.

“I’ve been threatening to put the blinds on her for a while. She’s honest enough but does a lot of looking around,” said McCourt.

“I thought a couple of times over seven at Fairyhouse she had them well stuffed, but she tied up a bit. I thought the stiff six here would suit but didn’t expect her to do it like that.

“We could look at one of the better sprints towards the end of the year.”

* A mares hurdle at Bellewstown on August 28 is the target for Colin Bowe’s Little King Robin following her emphatic all-the-way victory in the Martin Reilly BMW Dealer Hurdle in Sligo.

After she beat Cavita Beta by eight lengths her rider Mark Walsh commented: “She kills them with her early pace. I was able to give her a breather and she won with plenty in the tank. She’s a right mare.”

The featured Guinness Sligo Handicap Hurdle went to 2/1 favourite Give Me A Break, trained for J P McManus by Michael Hourigan and confidently handled by Adrian Heskin to record a comfortable ten lengths victory over Dazzling Susie.

The mare was building on her solid third to Prince Rudi at Galway last Saturday. for which the handicapper raised her 5lb.

Willie Mullins completed a double with Rough Justice (Johnny Burke) in the Martinstown Opportunity Maiden Hurdle and debutant Lyrical Theatre, described by Patrick Mullins as “very exciting” after a smooth success in the mares’ bumper.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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